Medical devices have gone from being largely stationary at hospitals to becoming wearable by everyone at any time. Gadgets like smartwatches, wristbands, and even garments can collect real-time information on a person’s vital signs. Moreover, wireless glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, and portable heart rate monitors have become popular for home healthcare solutions. While the ability to continuously measure patient vitals outside clinical settings is exciting, integrating all that data with EMR systems becomes challenging. That is where solutions for EMR medical device integration become essential.
The Importance of Medical Device Integration with EMR and EHR
The end of the previous decade saw a surge in demand for wearable medical devices. This was mainly for people who wanted to measure their fitness levels and know their progress. But as technology evolved and innovations came forth, the purpose of these gadgets quickly grew from fitness to remote patient monitoring.
It took a little while for medical devices to be able to collect vitals like heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, body temperature, and so on. The Covid-19 pandemic forced people to remain indoors and, in doing so, catalyzed the need for telehealth solutions. Under this, doctors can leverage digital and telecommunications technologies to provide medical services. Needless to explain, the need for a means of gathering patients’ vital signs became necessary.
Medical devices, especially wearable ones, gather patients’ medical data and relay it to providers in real-time. But for doctors to use this information meaningfully, it needs to be stored securely on EMR systems. This is where EMR medical device integration becomes important for the devices to be used to their fullest potential. By integrating EMR software systems with the devices, doctors can analyze the information better and make meaningful diagnoses.
The changes or fluctuations in the vital signs over time provide insights to providers about the patient’s health. This is especially important in the case of chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and so forth. In other words, integrating medical devices with EMR facilitates better remote patient care.
Healthcare in the United States suffers from some major systemic problems. Growing costs and existing inequities have made it extremely difficult for millions of Americans to receive the care they need. This problem worsens for people living in distant rural locations without significant specialist care. But an EHR integration with medical devices enables more people to access medical services without traveling far. Remote patient care enabled by wearable medical devices also lowers costs.
Greater accessibility and lowered costs are the twin benefits of medical device integration with EHR/EMR. In addition to its benefits for accessibility and cost, device integration with EMR also helps with senior care.
The United States has millions of aging seniors, which is growing yearly. However, there is an alarming shortage of caregivers for this aging population. In light of this, wearable medical devices like ECG and heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, and fall detectors help with senior care. These devices gather data on seniors at home, in retirement communities, or in assisted living facilities and send it to caregivers.
Wearable medical device integration with EMR solutions enables one provider to observe multiple seniors from remote locations. This can go a long way to make up for the dearth of caregivers and allow seniors to live with dignity and independence.
Steps Involved in EMR Medical Device Integration
As important as it is, successful device integration with EHR systems involves inherent problems. The main one among them is interoperability. The devices have been developed recently, but EMR software solutions have existed for many years. The programming language and data standards would differ, posing potential hurdles for smooth data exchange. This is a major concern since the data gathered from devices needs to be complete for providers to make informed diagnoses. There are also security concerns emerging from compatibility problems, threatening the privacy and integrity of patient data.
EMR medical device integration must be carried out in elaborate steps. Let’s explore them in detail –
Devices manufactured by different companies at different times have varying data standards. So, it is unsurprising that many devices and medical records software need to be interoperable. So, standardizing the data formats is the first step toward successful medical device integration with EMR. The process usually uses the HL7 or FHIR protocols to define the data structure. This will enable seamless data interchange between the electronic medical record (EMR) systems and the devices.
After the data has been standardized, it needs to be mapped to the relevant fields in the EMR software. Mapping is nothing but defining the relationship between the medical data garnered by the devices and the information stored in the medical records solution. Doing so ensures that once the data is stored in the EMR from the devices, it can be utilized by the providers for assessment and diagnoses.
After the data has been mapped, it is time to ensure it can be transferred and stored accurately in the EMR system. The data obtained from the medical devices must be usable by providers, and that is why it is important to test after the data has been mapped.
This is the final step in the entire EMR medical device integration lifecycle. It involves deploying the entire system in a suitable environment and observing the parameters to ensure it works as expected. The data from the medical devices must be transferred and stored onto the EMR automatically without compromising its safety or integrity.
How Will Medical Device Integration Facilitate Telehealth?
Telehealth uses numerous digital and information technologies to facilitate the access and dissemination of medical services. Needless to point out, for any telemedicine service to be effective, the provider must have access to the patient’s health information. That is where wearable and wireless medical devices come into play.
IoT-driven wearable gadgets, as well as portable sensors and monitors, can measure patient vitals in real time. Subsequently, this information is transmitted to EMR platforms, where doctors can analyze them for insights. Fluctuations in blood pressure, heart rate, or blood glucose levels might indicate a condition or suggest worsening of existing ones. For this to be recorded, medical device data must be stored reliably and securely in medical records software. EMR integration solutions facilitate this data transfer.
When providers can access patients’ medical data on their EMR/EHR, they can offer effective remote care services. The best part – patients don’t even have to be in the same city as their providers. Incorporating such EMRs into practice management solutions enables private practices to deliver effective telehealth services.
The penetration of devices like Apple’s Smartwatch, Fitbit, and other IoT-powered medical wearables is growing yearly. The potential for their application is seen everywhere, from athletic training to senior care, chronic disease management, and remote patient monitoring. This should push future EHR development efforts toward easier interoperability with medical devices.
Wireless medical devices and IoT-based wearables are increasingly popular among patients, athletes, and regular people. Their potential to monitor patient data has opened many doors for the future of telemedicine and the healthcare industry. As the devices improve each year, developers, providers, and policymakers must make medical device integration faster and safer.
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Written by Riken Shah linkedin
Riken's work motto is to help healthcare providers use technological advancements to make healthcare easily accessible to all stakeholders, from providers to patients. Under his leadership and guidance, OSP Labs has successfully developed over 600 customized software solutions for 200+ healthcare clients across continents.